Now that we are in the long dark of winter, I find myself once again returning to the genre of massive open-world RPGs on my console. This year, such a transition comes in the form of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I received as a Christmas gift. In this time of quiet solitude and contemplation, locked away in my basement, the meditative grind of completing side quests and exploring vast lands stirs in me memories of years past. There is something about this time of year that makes me want to explore an open world filled with sword and sorcery (and preferably dragons). The most prominent of these memories is the two winters I spent cutting a swath through the vast regions of Skyrim. Skyrim came out during my senior year of college, and so it occupied most of my time during that winter break, as well as the winter of the following year when the world outside was covered in snow and too frigid to venture out. I could experience this same kind of beautiful winter landscape, but from the comfort of a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa. Once Spring came along, I put down Skyrim and went back to school and more social activities, not touching it for almost a full year until, once again, the snows descended upon my Midwestern town.
Looking back on my youth, it seems that the large console RPGs that I play often come during the winter. At first, I thought that maybe this had something to do with the necessity of free time as related to the school calendar. When you’re in school, you have two big break periods: summer break, which is usually accompanied by park district sports, family vacations, and kick-the-can until it’s too dark to see; and winter break, which has a three day family trip for Christmas and then two to four weeks of downtime (depending on what level of school you’re at). The winter break is usually the one dedicated to the marathon gaming required of big RPGs, because there’s no way anyone is going outside for more than five minutes. But delving deeper into my media consumption habits, there’s more to it than just free time. A pattern seems to emerge in the TV shows, movies, and books I choose from late November to early February. This is the time I tend to re-watch Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, or catch up on the Game of Thrones DVDs on my shelf, or read that Tolkein book I’ve been meaning to get to for years. There’s just something about the winter that makes me yearn for worlds filled with high and low fantasy.
In thinking further about this, I was determined to discover some other pattern in my seasonal consumption habits. After all, I have access to these things year round, I just choose to watch/play them at a specific time of year. Certain trends emerge, but not necessarily related to specific genres. For instance, summer tends to be the time that I pick up a used copy of the previous Assassin’s Creed game (if it’s not too broken…), play through between twenty and fifty percent of it, and then move on to the most recent Rockstar game. I will never be able to play Red Dead Redemption any time other than the summer, because it is just a summer game to me. This is why I never got through GTAV. I loved it, but it came out in the fall, which for me is typically a gaming dead zone and a time dedicated to focusing on school again, as is the spring, and so I got through the introduction of each main character and then really never got back to it. By the time the next summer came, I was trading in my PS3 and games for a PS4. I would say that I might go pick up the remastered version next summer, but Arkham Knight is coming out in June and I already know that’s going to be my next summer game. In looking forward, I am already anticipating that next winter will be dedicated to The Witcher 3. Despite its May 19 release date, I know that this is the kind of game I will be looking for come late November, and barring the release of The Division, is probably going to take up most of my time at the end of the year.
It seems that winter is just a special time for me and my RPGs. There’s nothing like spending hours hunting, crafting, and slaying dragons while the snow quietly buries the windows until it’s too dark to see and I realize I need to eat dinner. With publishers just starting to get a handle on what the new generation of consoles are capable of, I can’t wait to see what kind of massive worlds they will conjure up for us in the near future (Elder Scrolls VI?!?!). But I can’t be the only one with specific gaming habits. What games/genres are linked to certain seasons for you? Or is there one game that you think is for all seasons? Let me know in the comments below, and have a great 2015 in gaming!